Why Is Envy So Dangerous? How to Defeat It?

Fr. Andrei Gavrilenko | 11 November 2021

Everything that the tenth commandment speaks of can become an object of desire. We look with envy at what we do not have.

The main word for envy is “little.” There is money, but not enough. There is a living place, but it is small. There are friends, but only a few. There is joy, but not enough… And wherever the cycle begins, everything ends with “I want more”.

In the age of advertising, we lose our nerve when we see a thing we want in the hands of our acquaintance, a passer-by, or even in virtual reality.
As it turns out, marketing is not only the engine of commerce, but also the seed of envy. People, things, resorts ‘scream’ from gadgets, shop windows and covers. Defense mechanisms are crumbling. We can’t resist.

Philosophy, politics and culture are familiar with the destructive power of envy. Everyone remembers Mozart and Salieri, and the tragedy of Hamlet’s father.

Having once arisen in the fallen angelic world, envy through the devil penetrated into human society. It lives in rich houses and among the poor. Wealthy and poor, single and married are all at risk equally. Its black hand strokes the sick and the prisoner, old and young.

Envy gives rise to condemnation and vanity. It is friends with despondency and sadness.

This passion, according to Socrates, is an ulcer of the soul. It harms one’s well-being and darkens the joy of others. A man torments himself, exhausts his heart with poison. Gregory Skovoroda considered this passion pernicious, the mother of all vices. As rust eats up iron, so does the envy to its owners. It paralyzes work, directing one’s attention to others. Thus a person cares less about himself and his soul, just about his wealth.

So the commandment of the apostle seems distant: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6: 6). Blessed, that is, happy, is the one who lives according to the Gospel law and is content at the same time. The sad thing is that you can live outwardly according to the law of God, but still be not content.

The love of money and its child, envy, play a role in this situation.

The presence of envy of the financial success of one’s neighbor is evidence that the heart worships mammon, and not God. Here it plays the role of a symptom of a terrible illness of the soul. Through it we learn that our soul has become the soul of an idolater.

Saint John of Sinai notes that envy is born from love of money. And he offers the best remedy against these “close relatives” – the virtue of equanimity. This virtue can be achieved by constant “memory of the terrible answer we will have to give when exit this world.” Imagine, man, that at the Last Judgment everyone will know about your vices and there will be no intercessor. “If you sincerely reproach yourself before the Lord,” the venerable saint continues, “you will despise these passions like a spider’s web.”

Here’s another recipe for fighting envy – reproach yourself in front of the Face of a Loving God. As soon as you notice the hissing of this passion in yourself, crush its head by reproaching yourself: “What am I doing, forgive me, Lord. Help me to not envy, but to rejoice for my neighbor.”

Envy is a demonic state. Demonic envy is the cause of many temptations, blasphemous thoughts, nightly desecrations and lustful thoughts. “All demonic battles stem from three main reasons: either from our negligence, from our pride, or from the envy of the devil,” we read in The Ladder. And the classic expression of Abba Dorotheus is “Demons attack you because of their envy.”

Envy hates good. Defeated by envy, one looks for a dirty trick in any deed of one’s neighbor. Envy distorts one’s consciousness. A person becomes a hypocrite, because how can you be sincere when you want something that is not yours?

The saint of Mount Sinai reveals a clear sign of envy. You have this ailment if you condemn the teachings, deeds and virtues of your neighbor with ease and pleasure. An envious person cannot rejoice at the success of his neighbors. Jealousy darkens our human dignity. It downplays our real situation. Therefore, a simple lesson against envy can be the realization of what we have.

Christian, know: you are rich too!

Rich in God. Rich in faith. You know that he who overcomes evil will be allowed to sit at the right hand of God: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”(Rev. 3: 21-22).

Envy breeds strife, disquiet, and makes you do stupid things.

The brotherhood in Christ is against envy. How can we envy our brother for whom Christ shed His Blood?! What our brother has comes from God. You have prayer, ask God – and it will be given to you, as the Savior promised (Matt. 7: 7). Just ask for the good, so that you can do good with what you receive, and not satisfy your passions.

Ask yourself the question: why do you want this? Do you want to be praised the same way?

But praise should be sought only from the One God, such praise will never pass, such glory comes from the One God (John 5:44).

Do you want to be as rich?

But have you not read the words from the eternal Book: “Woe unto you, that are rich … Woe unto you, that are full! for you shall hunger”(Luke 6: 24-25). Do you really ask for and wish unhappiness for yourself? Quickly give up such desires that bring grief and horror.

Do you want to get everything you want just as easily?

But is it really necessary to turn caring for the body into lust? (Rom. 13:14) Will this not become a prison for you? And having forgotten about your neighbor, will you not be condemned to eternal torment?

Why torture yourself? Free yourself, man, from this pernicious disease.

The Lausiac History compares souls infected with passions to various sources. The souls of the proud and envious, having the ability to know, are like the springs in which snakes live, for their mind always stagnates like rotten water in a swamp, because no one wants to drink from there because of the bitterness of temper and the stench of unclean deeds. Therefore, David prays to God to give him three gifts: goodness, teaching and knowledge, for without goodness, knowledge is useless.

In Lausiac History, the Savior is called the tamer of envy. Only Christ is the giver of all blessings, He calls for contentment and hope in Him. It is for a reason that after confession, where “Christ invisibly stands between us,” you can get rid of this ailment.

Chesterton, in his famous essay on Robinson, calls this book the greatest of poems, because it celebrates the preciousness of the little things that survived from shipwreck.

Abba Dorotheus wrote: “So, envy in itself is nothing, but it has reasons, among which there is love for fame: for whoever wants to be glorified, envies the glorified or the preferred one. And all the fathers say that every passion is born from these three: from the love for fame, love for money and love for pleasure, as I have often told you. So, one should not only cut off the passions, but also their reasons, then fertilize their morals well with repentance and weeping, and then begin to sow a good seed, which is the essence of good deeds.”

The land of the heart is not for the weeds or the wind, but for the good seed. The saints advise the opposite virtue to be opposed to passion. For example, envy is opposed by benevolence and joy for the success of one’s neighbor.

The same venerable Abba ends one of his instructions this way: “You must bring your efforts and diligence; and the veil, mercy and the granting of power depend on God.”

The power of envy, according to the philosopher F. Bacon, is similar to the power of love. Perhaps, envy is only conquered by love. It was also noticed by Aesop that when someone has joy in the house, rejoice with him. Rejoice for the joy of your brother – and the Lord will not leave you.

Heart ailments are cured with the love of the heart. Christian, appreciate what you have.

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